plain view

At the corner of Dickle Road and Dickle Road rises a series of hills no one cared about until it was too late.  And so, a junk yard was born. The gullies and ravines are stacked with smashed cars, such that an eight-foot-high fence was later built to shield the countryside from the eyesore. But, given that the junkyard is on a slope, the fence doesn’t do its job. We still see the flash of beached car bodies pressed against the Emerald Hills.  Eventually enough people cared enough to name the hills,  but by then it was  too late to move the junkyard further east.

Opposite the junkman’s corner sits a loosely fenced pasture of grasses and out buildings, sharing a history with a small house near the county road. Last weekend, the gravel drive sported one yellow Estate Sale yard sign.

Before I saw the sign, I saw the post. Stop, I said.

We stopped.

Between the mailbox and the chicken-wire fencing stood a six-foot-tall blonde post, with a girth easily eighteen inches in diameter.  Petrified wood serving as a gate post!

I waded through the dewy, tall grasses  to the backside of an old stucco shed, and found my place beside an elderly Hispanic man stooped and shuffling along the edges of the out buildings, pushing a 30 gallon bucket. A bucket o rocks for $5! After he had sorted all the rocks in front of him that were piled along the edge of the shed, he’d scoot to his left and I’d scoot with him, sorting through the rocks he hadn’t taken. Dinosaur bones, agate, crystals, lava, petrified wood, pretty sandstone.

Hewhostoppedwithoutaskingwhy had disappeared inside the house. I scooted and shuffled with the little man to my left. Now and then he would grunt and lean his stooped body towards mine. I’d lean my stooped body towards his to hear him whisper: ya ya that’s a good one. you have dinosaur bone. Or: take that one, you find crystals when you crack it open. He was striking stones, looking for flint. I had my mind on fossils. Hewhostops eventually came to find me and never once said More Rocks, Sherry, Really?, but instead he joined our stooped line.

I told him I had already looked through the rocks he was looking through. He gave me one of those I Hear What You Are Saying But I Am Choosing Not To Listen smiles. And in short order he nudged me, with two fist-sized rocks in his hands. I nodded my That Is Neither Flint Nor Fossil nod. He nudged me harder.  I slid my glasses back to the bridge of my nose. There in his hands were two artifacts the Indians must have used in scraping hides and grinding grain.

This from the man who had earlier noticed that every knife in the kitchen drawer and every $1 pocket knife for sale inside the shambled house were sharply sharpened, such that he complimented the grandson running the estate sale of his grandfather’s house; such that the grandson was so pleased someone would take the time to notice something that spoke kindly of his grandfather, he took Hewhostops out to the garage in the far pasture and located four hard-to-find files; such that from now on when we go camping, the sharp axe we take with us will chop firewood in memory of Manwhosharpenedblades.

And at home, my home: I spilled the bucket of rocks beneath my bedroom window.  I don’t want to say I own these rocks. I don’t want to say I have them. I want someone to come stoop beneath my window and fondle the fossils and agates and geodes, strike one against the other checking for a source of flint. And in the course of doing so, I want someone else to take a scraper rock in hand and feel the way it feels to hold onto something others held long before we lived.


And did I add a geode to my bucket of rocks? Yes, I did. And did I crack it open? No, I will not.





page 39


He shows me the photo he took with his camera phone: Look! I could have run over these babies.  Good thing I always check my tires before I get in my truck. They were sleeping in the shade of my truck tires!

But what about the mama duck, I ask, was she okay? Alive? Scared for her babies or what?

He says the mom’s okay. He didn’t run over her.

I tease:  But how do you know she was ok? Maybe the almost-fatality gave her a fright. And he says, but ducks don’t get frights.

And  I ask him to send me the photo (shhh, he has no idea I’ve pasted it to this page).From now on, he says, he will be known as Quick Draw for how fast he whipped his phone out to take this picture.  He will think of this as the Camera Phone Conversation and I will think of it as the Ducks Don’t Get Frights Talk.

He and I are friends, yes. But he and I? Our wave lengths don’t match up. (Editor’s sidenote: This is not a complaint.)

In the shade inside my own truck is a book I’ve been toting around. A gift from a good friend. She’s been dying restless anxious for me to finish reading what she considers the best book of the year.  I’m stuck on page 39.

On page 39 the hero dives into a huge wooden water tower with the purpose of finding the leak. Every day he searches a different section of the holding tank until he realizes he should only search along the water level. Because why?  Because that is where corrosion happens — where two unlike objects meet. Wood against water. Solid against liquid. Motion against the non.

I need to read on, yes, and see that he fixes the tower and perhaps he will become a rock star water tower mender after that. I dunno. I’d like to tell my friend I finished the book and give her a reassuring smile, but she might ask how I liked the way it ended.

We like books for the opposite reasons. She likes plot and I like character. She likes mysteries solved and I like magic hiding.  She loves the book for the horses and the angst that haunts the valley.  But I can’t find the horses in the book what with the edge of water  rubbing against oak staves.

I turn to page 39 and am hijacked to some other world. When I come to, I put the book down; gather myself, consider where I am parked. And then I climb out of my truck to check the shadows my tires cast.


on getting out and giving in

I don’t even know how to get out of town. 

That is a line I wrote in a journal found in an old backpack I discovered this weekend. The backpack is mine, but hadn”t been opened in a few years (yikes!). But the line? Who did I lift it from?

Maybe it was me. Might have been you. Might have been a friend who was lost one weekend in Pittsburgh – everywhere he turned, there was another river he had no way to cross. The who doesn’t linger as much as the how.  As in: how does it happen — one day we wake up and can’t remember the way out. Or we can’t remember the last time we went there.

Naturally of course and no doubt, comes the road block.

I wanted to back up and go around. The view along Fiddler’s Creek Road was outstanding and only an extra seventeen miles. But really, there was no danger in this washed-out road and really, Sherry, really. Must you always be so willing to give in to mild fear?

Getting there, for me, involves giving in to something bigger than myself. Something so much bigger that there is no way I can be prepared enough, be in control enough.  A favorite author, Pam Houston, talks about why she spent so many years in the wilderness (despite her own set of fears.) “I learned . . . my place in the universe, learned why I need the wilderness, not why “we” need it, but why I do. That I need the opportunity to give in to something bigger than myself, like falling into love, something bigger, even, than I can define.”

So, you find the way to get out of town. And when I say town, you know, right?, that it isn’t about geography. You find the way out, and you figure out that you cannot prepare for everything and that you cannot bring everything with you. Some things must get left behind.

Along the way comes the hunt, the fishing, the search. Pam Houston reminds us about Jacques Lacan who believes men desire the object of their desires but women more often desire the condition of desiring. That search, that hunt, that fishing! Pam Houston again: ” While a man tends to be linear about achieving a goal,




a woman can be circular and spatial. She can move in many directions at once, she can be many things at once, she can see an object from all sides, and, when it is required, she is able to wait.”



poetry, lifted


Photo by Nadine Hergenrider

White letters out or white letters in? (Tire Guy)

You’re the triple tear-off on Zanzibar, right? (Roofer Guy)

Three nooses in a cow camp barn. (The Artist Who Knows the Story Behind the Photo)

Bad night to be a three-tab shingle. (After Last Night’s Windstorm)

What’s a rich woman’s mummy doing in a common man’s coffin? (Museum Sign)


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